This senior criminal justice major is polishing her legal skills in a local county courtroom before heading to law school.

 

Judging by the way she effortlessly dishes about criminal justice issues, you would think that Nicole Eaton ’18 is already practicing law as an attorney. Even though the West Springfield local still has to make it through law school before realizing her dream of becoming a prosecutor, one thing is certain: Elms helped her gain a deep appreciation for the complexities of law.

Nicole decided to major in criminal justice because she enjoys the challenge of navigating murky legal waters. “I think it’s what drives me,” she said. “Just trying to figure out where to go within that grey area. There isn’t always one clear-sided victim.”

After discussing her career goals with Kurt Ward, MBA, J.D., Ph.D., the director of criminal justice and legal studies at Elms, Nicole added a minor in legal studies to acquaint herself with the procedural side of law and order. Landing an internship in the clerk’s office at Hampden County Superior Court in Springfield, MA, gave her a front row seat to the dynamics of the U.S. court system.

“I’ve taken what I’ve learned here at Elms to the courtroom and actually seen it in person,” she said. “I love it.”

Working directly with a clerk magistrate, Nicole assists the office with handling records and evidence for ongoing trials. This hands-on experience is invaluable, as it will make her stand out when she applies to law school programs. Thanks in part to the interdisciplinary focus of the criminal justice major, Nicole has already seen a positive transformation in her communication, writing, and legal research skills, all of which support her career steps.

Nicole’s interests range from advocating for justice on behalf of domestic violence victims to finding new ways to curb juvenile crime rates. In her mind, the possibilities of what one can do with a criminal justice major are endless.

“I think that criminal justice can address so many public health issues,” she said. “There are so many underlying factors that contribute to crime. If, from a criminal justice perspective, we can stop or fix those things before they happen, it’s important to do so.”